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Alabama Ethics Commission Delays Hearing On Luther Strange Finance Violations

By  |  July 28, 2017, 11:49am  |  @treyedwardsal

Over the past few months, we here at The Resurgent have been covering the corruption surrounding newly appointed US Senator Luther Strange in great detail. Now, The Resurgent has learned that the hearing on multiple alleged campaign finance violations committed by Luther Strange have been mysteriously delayed until the day after the special election primary in which he is running to keep the seat he was appointed to by former Governor Robert Bentley, who pled guilty to multiple crimes earlier this year. This hearing was scheduled to occur on August 2nd, but has been quietly postponed until August 16th, the day immediately following the election on the 15th.

Luther Strange & Robert Bentley

Luther Strange is the former Alabama Attorney General, and was appointed to be a US Senator after the man who previously held that spot, Jeff Sessions, was appointed by Trump as the nation’s Attorney General. Strange was appointed to the Senate by now-convicted criminal and former Governor Robert Bentley, after Strange actively sought to halt the impeachment proceedings against the Governor for more than six months. Since then, scandal after scandal has come out surrounding the unelected Senator, all while he is fighting for his political survival in a special election that was called by the new Governor, Kay Ivey. Ivey called a special election because former Governor Bentley had refused to hold one, in violation of state law. By refusing to hold the special election on schedule, Bentley gave Senator Strange months to raise millions and cozy up to Mitch McConnell, who is now spending more than $2.4 Million of NRSC money to protect him in a heated primary against 10 Republican opponents.

Approximately 90 days ago, there was a new development in the case against Luther Strange that went largely under the radar: the Alabama Secretary of State’s office filed a report with the Alabama Ethics Commission stating that two expenses filed by Luther Strange’s campaign were both outside the window in which expenses are permissible, and were also over the maximum limit for those kinds of expenses. At the time, Secretary of State John Merrill, also a Republican, told ALReporter,

“That is not a permissible expense and it exceeds the amount that could be given even if it were within the correct time frame. There are two violations there.”

These violations are both felonies according to Alabama law.

According to Strange’s campaign, these expenses have to do with Luther Strange transferring the domain names for his website from his state account to his federal account. However, this claim is suspicious, as the amount of the transaction is over $1,400. Annual domain fees generally vary in the $10-40 range. Normally, it would be assumed that he was buying a batch of domain names similar to his website address, but a statement from his attorneys in a Yellowhammer News article specifically says it was the purchase of “two web domains at fair market value.” These attorneys, – Megan Sowards Newton and Benjamin L. Ginsberg of the high powered DC law firm Jones Day, have a history of working for establishment GOP Congressmen and Senators. Megan Sowards Newton is the former General Counsel for the NSRC, Mitch McConnell’s organization that is spending millions of Republican dollars to protect the unelected Luther Strange – in a primary, in a solid Republican state. Not only that, but the NSRC has been actively intimidating and threatening any consultants or campaign contractors that have gone to work for any of the other Republican candidates running. It is uncertain exactly how Mitch McConnell’s high powered lawyer friends were unable to achieve a delay in this ethics hearing for his friend Luther Strange, and it is unlikely that we will ever know, as the proceedings have been shrouded from the public eye. In fact, the announcement that the meeting was rescheduled was not widely broadcast, but simply quietly posted up on their website. Below is a screenshot, just in case it mysteriously disappears in the near future:

Now, officially, we do not know for certain that the hearing on this particular case was on the agenda for the August 2nd meeting of the Alabama Ethics Commission, as that agenda has not been publicized. However, The Resurgent did reach out to the Secretary of State’s office and verify the facts:

  1. A report was filed with the Alabama Ethics Commission approximately 90 days before the August 2nd meeting was scheduled.
  2. There has been no hearing on the report yet.
  3. The rescheduling of this meeting of the Alabama Ethics Commission to August 16th guarantees that the matter will not be heard before the election on August 15th.

Former Governor Robert Bentley’s Mugshot

Legally, the Alabama Ethics Commission has up to one year before hearing a complaint filed against a public official. However, there is a recent precedent for holding the hearing before the election. Earlier this year, after Secretary of State John Merrill filed a similar report regarding Governor Robert Bentley’s campaign finances on Feb 3rd, a hearing was held by the Alabama Ethics Commission within 90 days – on April 10th, right as the impeachment proceedings against the Governor were beginning. The evidence was nearly identical to the case against Luther Strange, as is the language used by Secretary of State Merrill, who at the time called Governor Bentley’s violations “not a permissible expenditure.” These violations were turned over to the District Attorney for prosecution, who immediately negotiated a plea deal with Bentley in which he pled guilty to both campaign finance violations, stepped down from office, and agreed to significant fines and community service. The impeachment proceedings were abandoned, Kay Ivey was sworn into office, and the state was finally able to move forward. The Ethics Commission’s quick and decisive action in that case saved the taxpayers a significant amount of time and money. Now, however, they have abandoned the precedent they themselves set, and appear to be allowing this election to move forward with no resolution on the highly pertinent ethics complaints filed by the Secretary of State’s office. This is a violation of the due process rights of the victims of this crime – in this case, each and every individual voter in the state of Alabama. The general public has a constitutional right to a speedy trial, and deserves to know whether or not the sitting US Senator has violated the law before heading to the polls on the 15th.

US Senate Candidate Randy Brinson

To make matters worse, all of this is going on while Luther Strange is having to answer questions about yet another alleged scandal. He was recently implicated in a conspiracy by some of the biggest corporate political donors in the state to bribe legislators and public officials to oppose an EPA Superfund project. After State Representative Oliver Robinson recently struck a deal and pled guilty to taking a six-figure bribe, fellow State Representative John Rogers told US Senate candidate Randy Brinson on the record that he, too, was offered a bribe – and that Luther Strange was present at the time. In fact, in an 18-month period while Luther Strange was using his position as Attorney General to actively campaign against the proposed EPA Superfund project, he received a total of $75,000 in campaign contributions from the people who Oliver Robinson pled guilty to taking a bribe from. After promising to hold a press conference to that effect alongside Randy Brinson, Rogers backed out at the last minute and started telling reporters that he’d never said such a thing – apparently unaware that multiple additional people were listening to the phone call. It really makes you wonder who got to him, and what he was threatened with. Reports from political operatives close to the situation tell The Resurgent that Rogers was visibly shaken after being contacted by the people he previously claimed had attempted to bribe him. These sources tell The Resurgent that he has since disappeared completely from the public eye and refused to speak to anyone about the matter. You can read the news articles about this event as it unfolded here, here, here, and here.

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